It’s the Characters, Stupid! – Ruminations on the Movies…

by Jan 17, 2000Lord of the Rings (Movies)

Who needs Xena when Elven princesses come to the rescue?The holidays are over, kids are back in school, and summer is in full swing in New Zealand… which means it’s about time to come to a conclusion or two in lieu of all the brooding we’ve done over Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.

Last week’s news found a few more pictures of Liv Tyler (Arwen, the primary female character) being chased by two Nazgul (the henchman for Lord of the Ring’s own phantom menace, Sauron). These photos accompany some images released by the December 20th edition of Woman’s Day magazine (in New Zealand), and were obviously taken on the same day.

What can we say about these photos now? For those of us die-hard Tolkien purists there’s a lot to say… and some of our musings may not sit so well with the powers that be behind the film. As usual, there’s some good news, and some bad news.

The Good: It looks as though Jackson’s crew has put together a great feel for the movie. Liv Tyler looks like a Tolkien Elf; The Nazgul are garbed within evil cloaks and appear eminently menacing; Elijah Wood as Frodo and the dummy Liv carries look believingly Hobbit-ish; and the photos of the unfinished fortress of Helm’s Deep looks like a great location for the huge battle which will take place there.

The Bad: As feared across the internet, these photos indicate a rewrite of the book. I know, I know–Jackson’s obligated to make cuts and changes here and there to bring it down to the requisite 6 hours. But ought he make changes at the expense of one the most-loved major characters? Definitely not a good idea. So far he’s taken out the role of a minor elven character, Glorfindel, and replaced him with Arwen, the main love interest and female lead. Now, it’s not all that bad that he’s removed Glorfindel from the film, but using Arwen in his role of rescuing Frodo from the Nazgul is a definite no-no. What Jackson has done is redefine Arwen’s role from the familiar one in Tolkien’s books–she is now an aggressive, intrusive participant in the plot, whereas before she was the silently strong, and demure elven princess (and Aragorn’s lover, I might add).

Which brings me to my point. Fans of The Lord of the Rings love the story; we love the struggle between good and evil, the story of the unlikely heroes of Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee. But, ultimately, the story is only secondary to the characters–we care about Sam Gamgee and his good-natured honesty and naivete; we sense Gandalf’s supernatural power in his wizardly affectations; we fear the Nazgul’s dark and fell power; we are affected by the dignity and ancient royalty in Aragorn’s words. If The Lord of the Rings movie is not populated by these characters, as they are in the books, the story will make little difference to us–and anyone else who’s not yet read Tolkien.

What Tolkien has created, let no man tear apart. Please, all ye moviemakers in New Zealand, keep the characters as Tolkien intended them to be. Heck, a book that’s sold tens of millions copies, been translated into dozens of languages, and been voted Book of the Millenium has to have done something right with those characters…right?

What are your thoughts on this diatribe of mine? Head on over to the messageboard to let us know!


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